Corrupt head teacher and secretary jailed after syphoning £500k from Annie Lennard Primary School
Written by The Newsroom on November 26, 2019
A corrupt head teacher who fleeced a ‘deprived’ school of more than half-a-million pounds has been jailed for five and a half years.
Wolverhampton Crown Court heard that Michelle Hollingsworth syphoned off cash from Annie Lennard Primary in The Oval, Smethwick, for five years that led to an eye-watering loss of at least £513,000.
The 55-year-old, who had begun her career at the school and had been there for 29 years, was helped by disgraced secretary Deborah Jones, who was jailed for four years and three months.
Mark Jackson, prosecuting, said for Sandwell Council was forced to pick up the massive bill that could be recovered in the near future using the Proceeds of Crime Act.
And during sentencing – which took place Tuesday, November 26 – Judge Simon Ward said the pair made around 180 visits to boutique stores and on shopping sprees that were funded by school cheques.
Hollingsworth, who lives in a £1million home in Hatherton Park in Cannock, and 57-year-old Jones, from Barrs Road, Cradley Heath, bought everything from expensive designer clothes and antique furniture.
Mr Ward told the court the deceitful duo used money from dodgy deals that saw tradesmen paid for work that was either overpriced or invented.
Receipts and purchase orders were doctored to make it look as if the goods had been bought from educational suppliers.
Among those to benefit was Hollingsworth’s builder husband, Joseph, who cashed in with misleading and false invoices and purchase orders.
Another involved was Andrew Feltham who ran AB Windows and Burntwood Aluminium Systems and 60-year-old Stephen Roberts, who received nearly £16,850 for supplies that were never used.
Nathan Cooper even overcharged by just under £25,000 to supply sports supervision and coaching, which was heavily inflated.
And Robert McKeown, a partner of one of Hollingsworth’s family members, pretended to take on ten jobs at the school in a bid to launder cash through his company.
Hollingsworth was found guilty of conspiring to defraud with five other people and an attempt to pervert the course of justice by trying to get carpenter McKeown to take all the blame for his involvement in their deal that involved payment for non-existent work.
Delivering his sentence to Hollingsworth, Mr Ward said: “You have been a teacher all your adult life. You are married to Joseph and have adult children who live with you, as does your elderly father.
“As a teacher you have always worked at Annie Lennard Primary and worked your way up.
“As head you had a great deal of responsibility for the running of the school, and you were in a position of great trust.
“You had a responsibility for finance – setting the budget – working with the school governing body to make sure that best value was obtained for all money allocated to the school.
“You claimed in evidence to have had no training about finance – but it’s very simple in principle. The money wasn’t yours, and you had to spend it wisely so that the school got value for money in all it did.
“You treated the income of the school as a fund you could use generously for yourself. This isn’t a case of dipping into funds – over some six years you were criminally responsible for fraudulently depriving the school of some half a million pounds.”
Passing judgment on Jones, Mr Ward continued: “You abused your position of trust and responsibility.
“You also played an enthusiastic role in the shopping trips. You completely falsified documents from start to finish and manipulated the schools financial management system to cover up the fraud. That was sophisticated and took significant planning and oversight on your part.”
Full list of sentences:
Michelle Hollingsworth, of Hatherton Park in Cannock, was handed a five years and six month prison sentence.
Joseph Hollingsworth, of Hatherton Park in Cannock, was given a one year jail term.
Deborah Jones, from Barrs Road, Cradley Heath, was slapped with a four years and three months sentence.
Michael Dewsbury, aged 53, of Gardeners Cottage, Hatherton, was handed a three-month prison sentence, suspended for 18 months, and made to do 100 hours of unpaid work.
Nathan Cooper was handed a 14-month sentence, which was suspended for two years, and made to do 200 hours unpaid work.
Stephen Roberts, aged 60, was hit with a nine-months suspended sentence and ordered to undertake 120 hours of unpaid work.
Updates from the Cannock Chase Radio News Desk via Birmingham Mail - Cannock News